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Full text of "On the picket line thankful"

ON THE PICKET LINE 
THANKFUL 



By SAMUEL HARRIS 

Late 1st, Lieutenant Co. A 5th Mich. Cavalry 



With Compliments of 

SAMUEL HARRIS & CO. 

Machinists' and Manufacturers' 

TOOLS AND SUPPUES 

114 and 116 No. CUnUn St. CHICAGO 




SAMUEL HARRIS 

Late First Lieutenant Company A, Fifth Michigan Cavalry 
Born September 15th, 1836 



ON THE PICKET LINE. 



About 10 o'clock on the 31st of December, 1864, 
Lieut. -Col. Gould, who was in command of our 
regiment, the 5th Michigan Cavalry, sent for me to 
come up to his tent, where he gave me an order to 
take my company and go to Germania Ford, saying 
there was some trouble there and he wanted me to 
find out what the trouble was and remedy it. Soon 
after lunch Ave started on a ten-mile tramp for the 
Ford and found the captain with his company 
camped close by the road. The captain told me 
not to go near the river, or the Rebs would gobble 
us all up. I told him I was sent down to guard the 
Ford and to keep the Rebs from -coming across and 
that I could not do it if I was over a mile away. 

After going about a half mile further, there was 
a cross road in one corner of which Avas an old log 
house, out from which came a middle-acred man and 



woman and two girls about 18 and 20 years old. My 
Orderly Sergeant was riding by my side. As soon 
as we got well by the house I asked him if he saw 
those girls. He said yes, and he would like to know 
what they were doing there. I told him that they 
were without doubt prostitutes and were getting 
some of the boys in that house and learning where 
each picket was stationed and getting across the 
river and bringing over three or four rebs who were 
crawling up behind a picket, and would compel him 
to surrender. I told the Sergeant as soon as we got 
to camp to take six men and a .Corporal and go 
back to that house and tell all four of those folks to 
get off my line that night or I would send them 
back to the General as spies. They got off my line 
in a hurry and I had no trouble. I camped right on 
the top of the hill in plain sight of the ford and 
across a big gully which was all grown up with big 
trees and underbrush. I set some of my men chop- 
ping down the big trees and felling them across the 
gully. 



In a little while we had the whole pile burning, 
which made a big fire five or six rods long. In this 
w^ay we blocked the path where the Rebs came 
across and up the gully to get in behind our pickets. 
I had no trouble on my line. In the afternoon the 
wind changed into the north and before dark it be- 



came very cold. I kept the relief picket going out 
every hour so no man had to stand over an hour. It 
was said later that the thermometer fell several de- 
grees below zero. I knew it was very cold. I was 
up all night looking after men and horses, as cold 
as it was and with a high north wind blowing I did 
not have even one man frost bitten. 



THANKFUL. 

In the early spring of 1863 our regiment was 
camped near Fairfax Court House, Va. One after- 
noon Lieut. -Col. Gould, who was in command of 
the 5th Michigan Cavalry, sent for me to come up 
to his tent and told me he had just received an or- 
der to go out after Col. Mosby early the next morn- 
ing and said he heard that I had been sick for some 
days, asking if I felt able to get up. I told him I 
did not feel strong enough to take a long ride. He 
asked if I felt able to take command of the camp 
while he Avas gone. I told him "y^s," so he issued 
an order to that effect. 

The next morning as soon as the regiment had 
passed out, I went into the guard house to see a 
man who had been put in there by his captain for 10 
days on bread and water for a very trivial offense. I 



asked the man if he had had his breakfast. He an- 
swered, "Nothing but some damn bread and wa- 
ter." I told him I w^ould be back soon with a good 
breakfast for him. 

I went to my tent and told my cook to bake a 
big pile of buckwheat cakes and fry a big slice of 
ham and make a quart of cofit'ee. Soon he came in 
with the whole lot on a nice tray that he had stolen. 
I told him to follow me. I went direct to the Guard- 
House and as I passed said to the guard at the 
door : "Keep your mouth shut.'* He answered : 

"You bet I will." My cook was close to my 
back. I said to the prisoner: 

"I have brought you in a good breakfast." He 
looked up at me and then at the eatables and burst 
out crying, and stammered : 

"Thank you. Lieutenant Harris." I had to ^et 
out of the Guard-House. 

I was badly wounded and was captured by the 
Rebs soon after this and never saw this man again 
for years. 

About thirty years after the above incident, I 
went to Rochester, Mich., to a reunion of the sur- 
viving members of old Company "A." The train 



arrived a little before 7 o'clock in the mornino-. 
Upon g-oing into the office of the hotel, a fine look- 
ing, well dressed man caught me and hugged me 
hard. As soon as I got a chance to see his face I 
said to him : 



"'You do not belong to Company "A." He an- 
swered : 

''No, I belong to Company " and as I could 

not place him he said : 

*'I will tell you of an incident by which you will 
remember me. Do you remember the day we lay 
near Fairfax Court House, Va., that you brought 
a breakfast to the Guard-House to a man who was 
confined there for 10 days on bread and water?'' I 
answered : 

""Yes, I remember it well," and he replied: 
'*I am the man and have been looking for you 
ever since the war. A few days ago a Rochester 
paper came to me, and I saw that Company "A" 
would meet here to-day and that you would be here 
with them. I rode a horse about 100 miles to 
a railroad, then another 100 miles by rail to 
Rochester on purpose to thank you for that 



breakfast. That meal and the spirit in which it 
was given put new life into me and was the turning 
point in my life. Immediately after my discharge 
I went to the northwestern part of Michigan and 
took up a large tract of pine land and now have 
a large saw mill and many men at Avork for me. 
Lieutenant Harris, during all these years I have not 
forgotten your kindness and I felt that I must come 
here to thank you." 



Press of ADOLPH SELZ, Chicago